Yeah, I know, I’m a slowpoke these day when it comes to getting event reviews up. Life overwhelms me, what can I say?
In any case, last Wednesday (November 2nd) was the 2nd annual Chowder Chowdown at the Royal York Hotel. Sponsored by Oceanwise, the premise is simple, restaurants create a chowder made with sustainable seafood, and pair it with a beer from Mill Street Brewery. A panel of judges chooses their favourite, but the crowd also gets to vote for a people’s choice selection.
And while Pangaea easily took the prize for both awards last year, there were a couple of upsets this time.
Above – the array of garnishes, including a huge geoduck clam, from C5.
The first thing we noticed is that there were very few cream-based chowders this year. Last year, every entry was cream-based and we remarked that it would have been nice to have some tomato-based, Manhattan-style chowders. This year, we were overwhelmed with non-cream-based soups. Like this delicious curried fish chowder with naan from Kristin Donovan of Hooked.
Tomato makes up the base for a lot of foods in the south, and this Louisiana seafood chowder from Chef Shabbir Chowdhury at Mill Street Brew Pub was an example of that.
Last year’s winner, Derek Bendig of Pangaea serves up a corn, fennel and smoked whitefish chowder.
The chowder from Fishbar was one of our least favourites (sorry guys) but the little homemade goldfish cracker was a great touch.
At Epic, the smoked trout and sunchoke chowder looked more like a latte topped with bacon.
Chef Tim Palmer of Epic, applying the creamy foam to his chowder.
Our favourite chowder of the evening was this poached tuna, prawn and yucca chowder topped with nuts from Chef Andrea Nicholson-Jack of Killer Condiments. It went far beyond tradition, but had the most interesting flavour profile.
The People’s Choice aware went to Chef Shaun J. Edmonstone of Bruce Wine Bar for his juniper smoked whitefish and charred corn chowder – I think the smokiness and the corn was the winning combo here, along with the fancy melba toast and caviar garnish.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t really agree on the judges’ choice of the mussels and tomato chowder from Trios Bistro as the winner. Even sharing a portion, Greg and I discarded this one halfway through.
What we did discover is there are as many ways to make chowder as there are (sustainable) fish in the sea, and there are plenty of options for making a chowder besides the standard cod, haddock, sole combination. Congratulations to the winners, and here’s hoping for even more diversity in the chowder array next year.